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May 11, 1990 - Image 3

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-05-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Women Again Denied
By Cantors Assembly

New York (JTA) — For the
third year in a row, the Can-
tors Assembly has voted
down a motion to admit fully
accredited women cantors as
members of the professional
The 100-68 vote in favor of
amending the assembly's by-
laws fell 12 short of the re-
quired two-thirds vote need-
ed for passage. A similar
resolution last year fell 19
votes short.
This year's vote took place
Tuesday during the 43rd
annual convention of the
Cantors Assembly in Loch
Sheldrake, N.Y. The
assembly, which is affiliated
with the Conservative
movement of Judaism,
claims to be the world's
largest professional organ-
ization of chazzanim (can-
"The issue of admitting
women is a sensitive and
emotional one that poses
complex questions of tradi-
tion, religious authority, the
status of women in the syn-
agogue and many other fac-
tors," Cantor Robert Kieval,
who was elected to a second
term as president of the
assembly, said in a state-
"The Cantors Assembly
calls on all its members and
the American Jewish com-
munity, whatever their per-
sonal feelings, to accept this
decision with understan-

Despite controversy over
the halachic propriety of
women leading a congrega-
tion in prayer, the Jewish
Theological Seminary, the
leading Conservative educa-
tional institution, has been
granting cantorial degrees
to women since 1987.
But the Cantors Assembly,
a professional organization
that has been likened to both
Actors Equity and a men's
social club, has not yet rec-
ognized women ordained as
cantors by the seminary.
The assembly, while a vol-
untary organization, is
responsible for the place-
ment of its members in can-
torial positions. Some wo-
men cantors have contended
that by not having member-
ship in the assembly, they
are missing out on oppor-
tunities for professional
placement and advance-
Cantor Marla Barugel,
spokeswoman for the eight
women seeking member-
ship, expressed her "shock

and dismay" Tuesday at the
result of the vote.
"We are disheartened,
considering that we share
the same goals, qualifica-
tions, professional concerns
and the same love of chaz-
zanut as those who have re-
jected us today," she said in
a statement.
"The problem has to do
with the traditional model of
the chazzan and various
interpretations of what the
Halachah stands for," Can-
tor Samuel Rosenbaum, ex-
ecutive vice president of the
assembly, explained in a
telephone interview. He was
sharply critical of those who
voted against the proposal.
According to Halachah, or
traditional Jewish religious
law, a cantor must be a per-
son who shares the same
obligation of public prayer
as all who are in attendance.
Since women are not
obligated under Jewish law
to engage in public prayer,
their serving as cantors is
After last year's vote,
members of the assembly
tried to work out a proposal
that would satisfy a con-
stitutional majority of the
assembly. Most were expec-
ting the vote to pass Tues-
In fact, a simple majority
of the assembly was in favor
of granting women cantors
membership, but not enough
to fulfill the two-thirds vote
"I regret very much that
though the majority of
members voting were in
favor of the admission of
women, the constitutional
structure of our assembly
has overruled the will of the
majority," said Rosenbaum.
"The admission of women
would have brought an add-
ed dimension to the
liturgical spirit of the syn-
agogue. New voices would
have been added to the
sound of Jewish prayer," he
The Jewish Theological
Seminary also expressed its
"While I am disappointed
with today's vote, I remain
confident that the Cantors
Assembly will, in time, rec-
ognize the widespread com-
mitment to traditional
egalitarianism that has been
and continues to be embrac-
ed by the vast majority of
congregations and leaders of
Conservative Judaism," said
Ismar Schorsch, the
chancellor of JTS.

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